Christ is the church
In a time when many congregations struggle to stay alive because they can't afford their building or the maintenance it needs stay a warm, safe sanctuary, it is more important than ever to remember that Christ is the church.
With a promise to be present whenever two or three gather, we are assured that when we meet for worship, prayer, study, a meal or to provide care for others, that we are not only Christ's hands and feet in the world but also that the coffee shops, hospitals, multipurpose gyms, stages, food pantries and garages we share our faith in are places where church happens.
While steeples and stained glass are very beautiful, they were designed to be like a billboard that people can see from a distance and know where to go for sanctuary, charity and worship.
But many people don't remember that like most of our favorite holidays, most of the architecture seen on the outside of traditional church buildings was based on the local faith beliefs of the people (known as pagans) in the area.
Symbols that were once thought to be heresy have now become associated with churches.
Rose windows incorporate ancient numerology and superstition, but they were included in church design by clerics with a desire to tell everyone who lived near by that their building sought to draw people of diverse practices, lifestyles and rituals.
There are also many biblical stories that borrow or reinterpret the histories and mythologies of other regions and faith groups. Our Lutheran church is a part of this ancient tradition of storytelling and seeking to welcome all by diversifying our landscapes and spaces of worship.
A message for all
The ELCA's work to become a more diverse and multicultural church, incorporating humanity from more languages and it's work to support emerging and mission ministries are some of the ways we create opportunities for people to see visible ways our church is trying to communicate that everyone (and I really do mean everyone) can be a part of this faith story.
So, if you are someone who has ever been told that you are not welcome in a church, or that Christ was not who was leading your church, rest assured that as long as you have two people, Christ has promised to be there.
This means that if all the people who’ve been told that they didn't act, dress, believe or tithe the way they ought to gathered together our churches would certainly outnumber those with the title of church on the front door.
One of the great things about being ELCA members is that all us motley individuals can gather together, remembering the promise of our baptisms and proclaim with certainty that we are named and claimed by God, and nothing we do could ever screw that up (just as nothing we do could have ever caused us to deserve it).
As a group that began rebelling from and reforming the traditions and churches that were most accepted, here more than ever the outcast, the radical, the shy -- and even those who don't know what lefse is -- can know that the moments of feeling on the margins, fighting for a unique faith and prayer life and even your most curmudgeon of moments are the ones when we are acting the most like the founders of our faith, that we are a church that belongs to Christ and there is a place for you here.
Megan M. Rohrer is an ELCA pastor called by five congregations and has been a missionary to the homeless in San Francisco since 2002.
You might also like to read:
Phyllis Tickle on the emerging church
No isolation within the community of faith
Growing the flock in rural communities